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Should You Go to Grad School?

New college graduates often face common problems, such as mounting student loan debt and uncertain job prospects. At one point between your junior year of college and the end of your first year out of school, you’ll likely be faced with a question: Should I go to graduate school? On the one hand, earning a post-baccalaureate degree can help you gain skills and credentials, making you more competitive for the job search. On the other, graduate school can be expensive and stressful, and may involve giving up a fairly comfortable job and relocating to another city or state.

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Will It Help You?

While additional qualifications certainly are a bonus in many fields, there are not always as many available jobs for advanced degrees, as there are awarded degrees. In many fields, particularly in humanities, it’s possible that you can go through all the work and expense of earning a graduate degree and still wind up working lower-level positions. Look at the job prospects for graduates in your field, as well as the requirements for the positions you would like to hold when determining if getting a grad degree will help you. If hiring is especially competitive, you may also want to consider whether you’ll get into a program that will give you a significant advantage in this.

Is It Right for You Right Now?

Realistically, there will never be an ideal time to return to school. Adult life means requires you to encounter some obstacles whenever making major life-changing decisions. Money may become problematic, or the prospect of moving. Perhaps the prospect of starting graduate school while getting married and raising a family doesn’t seem feasible.

If you are feeling completely burned out after your bachelor’s, it might be wise to take some time off before graduate school. Similarly, for students who are uncertain of their long-term goals but who are afraid they won’t find a job with just a BA, waiting may be the best option. If other realms of your life are incredibly stressful, hectic, and uncertain, may not want to add stresses of graduate school. In general, you want to approach a major life change and commitment like a graduate education when you’re relatively stable – emotionally and financially- before wholly devoting yourself to the workload. If now is not that time, we encourage you to give it some thought and time.

Can You Afford It?

Finally, when considering whether graduate school is a wise choice, think of affordability. At the very least, going from full-time employment to full-time education will involve reductions in standard living. Similarly, your financial aid picture, and possibly the level of parental support available to you, may be drastically different in graduate school. Make sure you’re ready to cope with that, as well as any expenses that might be associated with getting started with your degree. You don’t have to spend years saving, but it is best if you can avoid stressing about money while you’re stressing about harder classes and an increased workload..

Financial aid, which ranges from Stafford loans to graduate student scholarships, is available to prospective graduate students. While generous aid is not guaranteed, and it may not cover all of your expenses, it is available if you look well enough. Research fellowship and assistantship programs, and see if your present employer might be willing to help shoulder some of your expenses, as well. It’s also wise to incorporate a scholarship search into your graduate school application process. You never know what you may find to help you pay for school.

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Last Reviewed: December 2020